A few days ago I was at a cafe drinking an Americano and jotting junk in my notebook. A shaded table lamp offered little light. The red window drapes, tied at the waist, stood at the white-chipped opened window frames like women waiting. For who? For what? Anything.
Car sounds. Black-tiled rooftops. Purple Mountain somewhere in the smog. Outside, a sparrow looking in.
I’d write, and pause, write, and pause. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to stay awake. I wanted to wake up the eyes in my in bones. I looked into the chair beside me and let my mind wander. I could see a man, his soft lap, curved back, hair like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. I suppose he could see me drinking my coffee. I added milk and sugar. The man rubbed his forehead, his left leg jittery. I told him about the first time I tasted coffee. The bitterness so wonderfully shocking, and then the slow slow awakening. I told him about the stillness beginning to strain forward, the eyes opening, blood-rivers flooding toward the end. I told him about the sudden emptiness. The tragic coffee stains at the bottom of the empty cup, and the impulse to shout to the waitress for another cup, quickly please, quickly.
He tried to calm his jittery leg and said nothing. He rubbed his forehead, his hair star-swirling, face a cluster of constellations.
The chair beside me was the color of topsoil, the corduroy fabric like a man’s chest stripped of its skin, the arm rests rising slightly. I drank my coffee and stared into the chair. The drape-women were still waiting. Purple Mountain still muddled. I wrote a little, stopped. Wrote a little. The man was gone. I’d lost him.
Outside, the sparrow turned away. It jumped from the ledge and glided down, I imagine, to a strip of chicken fat lying in the street.